Road transport is an old means of transport.
It plays a significant role in carrying goods and people in all parts of the country.
Particularly, the rural economy depends upon the road transport.
The importance of roads has increased with the advent of auto vehicles.
The relative importance of roads is much more than that of railways.
(1) Railway transport limited to the railway heads while the roads provide door to door services.
(2) Roads can negotiate higher gradient of slopes and can traverse the mountainous regions. Construction of railway lines is difficult and expensive in hilly regions.
(3) Road transport is flexible, reliable and quick,
(4) It is more suitable for carrying perishable goods like milk, fruit and vegetables.
(5) Its cost of construction and maintenance is far less than that of the railway.
(6) For short distance journey, roads are more suitable. They supplement the railways by linking the interior areas with railway heads. Roads are ideal for the promotion of tourism in the country.
About 65% of freight and 80% passenger traffic is carried by the roads.
National Highways constitute only about 1.7% of the road network but carry about 40% of the total road traffic.
India has the 2nd largest road network in the world with over 4.24 million km at present, consisting of National Highways, Expressways, State Highways, Major District Roads, Other District Roads and Village Roads with the following length distribution:
National Highways/Expressways 93,051 km
State Highways 1,54,522 km
Major and Other District Roads 25,77,396 km
Rural Roads 14,33,577 km
Development of Road Transport
There has been a considerable development in the road length after independence.
Total length of roads in India has increased from 3,99,492 km (1950-51) to 4,690,343 km. in 2011.
Route length of National Highways has increased from 19,811 lakh km. (1950-51) to 70,934 lakh km. in 2011.
Route length of State Highways and Other PWD Roads has increased from 173,273 lakh km. (1950-51) to 1,169,225 lakh km. in 2011.
Route length of Rural Roads has increased from 206,408 lakh km. (1950-51) to 2,749,805 lakh km. in 2011.